Flight of the Condor

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May 6th 2014
Published: May 6th 2014
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No! Not the movie sillies. The real thing!

But first things, first....sorry for not having updated for so long. On the weekend I was in Arequipa from Friday night until Monday morning at 6.00am. I returned to Cusco only to find that the wifi at Patricia's house had been updated....which in fact meant broken. It has taken until last Thursday for it to be fixed (we are on Peruvian time of course) and since then this is the first opportunity that I have had to sit down and try to remember what has been going on in the last 10 or so days.

When I started writing this blog I had just finished skyping with Jane and felt a bit homesick to boot 😞 however........

Back to the condors!

Had the most amazing weekend which started with a 12 hr bus ride in a loosely termed 'bedbus'. I say this because although it sounds brilliant (the chairs are wide and lay back with a foot rest), they are in fact sooooo uncomfortable. I think I slept for 2 hours and then arrived at the bus terminal to be greeted by a HUGE sign saying Karen Hicks! Taxi
Bed BusBed BusBed Bus

The view from inside. Even got a movie for the first two hours! I have been on 2 other bed buses now and this was by far the most luxurious.
driver had as much English as I have Spanish so it was a quiet 20 min trip to the hostel, where I was led up some stairs and told to wait. Not sure what I was waiting for at this point but about 20 mins later (we are on Peruvian time of course), a man arrived to ask if I had had breakfast and that the bus would be arriving at 8.30 (it was around 8.00 by now). Headed off to the ATM as I had no money (which was a very good thing and will be explained later) and then brekky in the café next to the hostel. All of a sudden a man enters the café practically yelling my name to hurry and get on the bus (we have now left Peruvian time - of course!). Unfortunately for the café they didn't have change of my 50 soles so they kindly let me off the hook of the 16 soles I owed them with my promising to pay on my return. Jumped on the bus and so began our journey.

We travelled through some very desolate land surrounded by incredibly high mountains where a lot of mining
Cute but so bizarre!Cute but so bizarre!Cute but so bizarre!

I guess it's just like us seeing a kangaroo on the side of the road??
is going on. The conditions look awful for the people living there but they are such hard workers that perhaps they don't get time to notice. Our first stop was to take pictures of alpacas and llamas and I am now educated in knowing that there are 4 types of these animals, 2 domesticated but can't for the life of me remember the other 2 wild ones. The bus is taking us up to higher and higher altitudes and we are constantly reminded to take things slowly, drink coco tea and water. We stop for these drinks, the loo and of course the obligatory souveniers where there as well. Back on the bus and our next stop is to take in the views of all four volcanoes surrounding us. Two are active, two are dormant, but I think it would only take one to make a big mess of the area. They are snow capped and enormously magnificent. We then arrive at our restaurant for lunch which is a buffet, very pleasant and complete with musicians. After an hour we head to the hostel and allowed to rest for an hour or so before meeting in the plaza to go
Just like this photo...Just like this photo...Just like this photo...

so thought I would share.
to the hot springs. I walk to the plaza and note my surrounds while looking for our tour guide, not sure if we are walking or what. The amount of information seems to be in Peruvian shorthand which sometimes adds to the excitement but mostly to my anxiety when I am not sure where I am supposed to be and my Spanish is still limited to Si, No etc. Anyway......our bus turns up ( I only know this because I recognise the colour of the curtains in the bus, not the colour of the bus!) We end up driving for about 20 mins and then have to walk about 10 mins down a treacherous pathway. I am slowly realising that 'treacherous pathways' are the norm in Peru. We are well rewarded with beautiful scenery and explanations about the micro climate due to the hotsprings from the volcanos which fortunately do not include the sulphur or bad egg smell. We had our choice of a 39C or 38C pool heated totally by our friends the volcanoes. I opted for the 39C and had to ease my way in just as you would if it was a freezing cold pool. Stayed there

Even the natives are impressed!
for about an hour and really enjoyed the relaxing effect it had on my poor aching muscles. Again we were reminded to walk slowly back up the pathway as the combination of hot springs and altitude could equal fainting. I am happy to report that I didn't succumb to fainting but went very, very slowly on my way up, taking pictures of the view as I went. This is to be a common activity to avoid showing how really exhausted I am when climbing at high altitude 😊

Returning to our hostel, we are allowed about an hour to get ready for dinner and some local dancing. The food was really nice and the entertainment great fun. The two dancers insisted on getting people from the audience to participate and just my luck I was the first picked! I managed to not fall over while trying to whirl around to the now very familiar Peruvian tunes. I was actually very lucky to be first picked, as the dancing became more ..... interesting?.... to say the least (see my photo!). We had been picked up from our hostel by the bus to go to the restaurant, so I assumed that
Nothing like air con!Nothing like air con!Nothing like air con!

There is a stairway to heaven but I don't think this is it. The view from my room in the hostel.
we were taken back by bus. Surely by now I should know NEVER to assume ANYTHING! Our guide kindly gave us directions: " Walk two blocks that way and then go left or right .." What the??? Fortunately I had made friends with a girl from Lima who spoke heaps more English than my Spanish and we wandered together to the main plaza in search on an internet café as I needed to charge my camera (powerpoints did not exist in my room). This was a straight walk, internet café found but very crowded so we parted ways, Zhenia (Yes Zinna! I had to find someone to fill your shoes! LOL) to look at the festivities about to start, me to go to the hostel as I was buggered. Ummmm....how many times is it now that I have got lost?? Well add this to the list. Went down the lane I thought was the direction I had entered the plaza to meet the bus to the hot springs. After walking the 2 blocks realized that this was definitely foreign territory. As a wave of panic started to creep over me (due to the facts that I have little or no
Yep, there's the hot springs set up.Yep, there's the hot springs set up.Yep, there's the hot springs set up.

And I have to walk down to it.....
Spanish, no phone on me, no knowledge of the name of the hostel nor the name of the guide, it was very dark and reasonably late 9.30pm) I knocked on a door that looked vaguely like the door of the hostel. Unfortunately for the poor family that lived there and sent their 2 boys to the window to see who it was, have probably been traumatized for life seeing some weird English speaking ghost as I had a white scarf, white hair and white skin! Apologising in English (how dumb is that!) I scuttled back the way I came and once in the plaza realized that I had entered from a different side. Thank god!!! Problem solved and I have never felt so happy to sleep in a really uncomfortable bed LOL!

The next day we headed for the Colca Valley and the condors. We were rewarded by an all time record of 17 condors circling in the air at the one time above the crowds. And then.....a condor landed on a rock right near me and I was able to get the best pictures, plus another one then swooped in to push this one aside and displayed his
National flower of PeruNational flower of PeruNational flower of Peru

Sorry but you will have to look it up as I have forgotten it's official name already! :(
great wing span of 3 mtrs. Unfortunately I can't load videos on this site so will post to my FB page for those of you interested in having a look.

On arriving back in Arequipa, I was informed that my stop was coming up in 5 mins. However none of the surrounds looked familiar and as I was supposed to be picked up from my original hostel, I had the distinct feeling that Peruvian shorthand was being provided. I diligently got out of the bus as instructed but then asked the guide why I wasn't dropped back at my hostel. Yep, you guessed it...." go 2 blocks down there and turn left...Bavarian Hostel is the name". OMG here I go again! But.....remember I said that I went to the ATM when I first arrived at the Arequipa hostel? Fortunately, this proved to be the same street that I was now dragging my suitcase down and therefore I actually knew where I was going. Unfortunately for the breakfast café they were closed so I couldn't pay them. Unfortunately for me, the same non English speaking lads behind the counter were there and couldn't tell me what time or if my

Captured this on my walk back from the hot springs. Well worth the slow walk to avoid fainting!
taxi was coming. When thumbing through my Lonely Planet Spanish dictionary and feeling like my lessons were really a waste of time, new friends I met on the bus magically appeared in reception! They were moving hostels and graciously helped to sort out the taxi business. As I had over an hour to kill, we arranged to meet in the plaza for drinks. Had the best time looking at the lights of the plaza and then downing a Pisco Sour with them from the balcony of a cute little pub.

Eventually arrived back to Cusco on Monday morning at 6.00am after another sleepless night on the bed bus. Went to work with Nidia and the 2 year olds but when I got home had a nap so I could face my Spanish lesson (in which I painfully tried to recap my adventures in Spanish to my teacher - took almost the whole 2 hours!).

My next post will be about my day trip to the Sacred Valley and then my weekend trip to Puno and Lake Titicacca. I decided not to go to the Amazon as all through the month of April protests were being held. While I was assured that if my bus was blocked a taxi could be arranged, my sense of adventure did not stretch that far - (Helen I am sure on hearing this you are very relieved!). I am not all that disappointed because quite honestly after talking with the others at the hostel that had already been to the Amazon, I was really looking for an excuse not to go. Why??? Well, one of the girls came back with a parasite that had her taking antibiotics for over 2 weeks which actually made her feel worse; then they started talking about the number of mozzie bites even through deet 50; but the real clincher was when they started telling me about the SPIDERS!!!! The best way to attend the night walk was to wear a hood so that when the GIANT scorpion spider fell out of the tree onto you, it wouldn't go down the back of your shirt. Look up scorpion spider to see that I am not exaggerating about GIANT!! And while you may all be rolling around laughing now about my stupid fear, let me tell you that the only person to come into contact with a spider here at the hostel is ME! When I was at the school for the 3-5 year olds, I was standing in the classroom listening to the teacher tell the kids what to do next. Out of the corner of my eye I see something flutter by my hair. Innocently, I go to flick the 'fly' away but not seeing it fly off, ask Kiah if it is in my hair. Fortunately for me, Kiah is aware of my arachnophobia and when she looks, calmly says; "Oh! I'll just get that for you" and sends hurtling to the floor a medium size 8 legged monster. It took me a good 4 hours to stop feeling the hibijibees! The spider was successfully flattened by my boot too! Yes Quality Teamies, you have successfully jinxed me with your powerpoint send off and discussion.

Till next blog, stay happy everyone!

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


One of the stars!One of the stars!
One of the stars!

We saw both adult and young condors. The young are brown and the adults black with the white markings.
Condor papparazziCondor papparazzi
Condor papparazzi

This is just a small portion of the crowd too.
Spent ages trying to get this shot.Spent ages trying to get this shot.
Spent ages trying to get this shot.

My camera's battery had run out so was using my phone and thought I should utilize the 'selfie' to it's best advantage. I'm pretty happy with it.
The Colca CanyonThe Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon

I made it! Hoping I can post a similar photo when I get to the top of Mucha Pucchi.
This one's for you Ryno!This one's for you Ryno!
This one's for you Ryno!

I was able to take some photos from the bus window and while the quality wasn't so great because it was the phone camera, still gives you a good idea on what I was looking at.

The plaza
Arequipa -2Arequipa -2
Arequipa -2

Another view of the plaza

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